Engaging Students in Democracy by Andrew J. Seligsohn and Thomas Ehrlich

A thought provoking opinion piece about education for democracy. Read the entire op-ed here: https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2018/07/23/colleges-must-do-more-teach-students-about-voting-and-democracy-opinion?width=775&height=500&iframe=true              

Ehrlich has been a leader in higher ed and civic engagement for decades, Seligsohn leads the national organization Campus Compact, focused on these issues since 1985. At the Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, we are working to prepare students for the responsibilities of citizenship. The article shows the need to consider this as a way to build democracy, and calls for expansion in this work. 

The referenced article, Pedagogical Value of Polling-Place Observation by Students: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics/article/pedagogical-value-of-pollingplace-observation-by-students/99A4823B2FE884356615DC578B80EB65/core-reader#  provides a great example of involving students directly in research - and getting the research published! 

Campus Compact, a national coalition of 1,000 colleges and universities committed to the public purposes of higher education, is launching a major initiative called Education for Democracy establishing an expectation that every student will engage in courses, programs and activities aimed at preparing them for effective participation in democracy. 

The initiative comprises six core components:

  • Student voting matters: With a goal of increasing the proportion of college students who vote in local, state, and national elections;
  • Democracy in principle and practice: With a goal of increasing student understanding of the underpinnings of democracy and the workings of democratic institutions;
  • Deliberation for a shared future: With a goal of increasing students’ capacity to listen respectfully to the ideas of others and engage in both constructive and critical discussion of public questions;
  • Media fact and fiction: With a goal of increasing the capacity of students to distinguish reliable from unreliable political information;
  • Student leadership for democracy: With a goal of leveraging Campus Compact’s existing student fellowship program to build a network of student leaders committed to democratic renewal; and
  • Teaching for democracy: With a goal of preparing faculty and staff members to develop and execute high-quality courses and programs focused on democratic engagement.

Seligsohn and Ehrlich note, "If our democracy’s current crisis has any silver lining, it may be, as a friend suggested, that this could be “a civic Sputnik moment,” focusing our attention on the reality that democracy is not a spectator sport. It requires the thoughtful involvement of its participants. One crucial path to overcoming polarization and fostering a healthy democracy is to do a better job of preparing college and university students to be engaged citizens, guiding them to productive discourse, rather than ugly rancor."